Of the silly season and weird changes

Dav Whatmore helped Sri Lanka win the World Cup in 1996, but was not so lucky this time. The Sri Lankan Board sprang a surprise by not renewing the contract of its long time and successful coach.


West Indies paceman, Mervyn Dillon, came out with a statement that the Caribbean quicks would bomb Steve Waugh with bouncers.-Pic. AP

IT appears to be that after all World Cups dramatic changes are made to the playing structure of most nations, depending on how well or how poorly their teams have played. I call it the silly season for while some changes made are understandable, the others are weird.

The common factor however is while there may be changes within the playing or coaching staff very seldom do we see any alteration in the people who appointed those removed in the first place, the officials.

They seem to head a less precarious and pampered life than the players.

The great survivor in this area has been Englishman David Graveney. He is both the CEO of the English players association and the Chairman of the English selection panel.

He has been there for many years and overseen some of the darkest hours of English cricket.

While the other selectors, players, managers and coaches have been dropped, Graveney has some how survived.

The first casualty after a poor World Cup was Pakistan. Wholesale changes were made to the team and a new coach and manager were appointed.

No changes were made on the official side for the top position. This appears to change only when the Government changes.

Saving face is very prominent in Asian cricket and perhaps the rest of the cricketing world.

I thought of this immediately when I saw the Sri Lankan Board announce they were not renewing the contract of their long time and successful coach Dav Whatmore.

Interestingly many months ago at the ICC tournament in Sri Lanka, Dav told me that "he didn't want to continue with Sri Lanka after the World Cup and was in fact applying for other coaching positions."

The funny season has never been better exposed than the decisions made by the West Indies Board.

They caught the cricket world by surprise when they announced that Brian Lara had been re-appointed as captain and Bennett King, the coach of the Australian Academy was to be their new coach, without informing King first. (King subsequently rejected the offer).

I was amazed at Lara's appointment for I had been reliably informed that his papers had been marked never to captain again, after his disastrous first term.

The West Indies were in total confusion during his first reign and were a bitter divided group. It was a difficult time to take over as the Windies had lost their World title crown to Australia and were very much on the way down after two decades on the top.

Lara was too much of an individualist to lead the team and fell out with the coaches, managers and players.

Jimmy Adams was appointed to replace him and did an excellent job with very little firepower under his control. He was replaced by Carl Hooper much to the surprise of most pundits.

While the Windies may not have won a great deal under Hooper's control, he consolidated the team and built them into a close knit unit, with a future ahead.

The Windies now have a chance with a good solid batting line up and a couple of promising quicks on the way through.

They will still need encouragement and considerate handling. It will be interesting to see whether Lara can give this or whether he will be like many wonderful players when they are appointed as captain, cannot understand why their charges are not as good as them and have not the compassion needed to bring them through.

The Bennett King episode has been fascinating to follow. King had an interview with the West Indies Cricket Board, but said that "no conditions were discussed and was most surprised that he had been announced as the new coach, without further discussions with the West Indies Board on advising him or the appointment". It was even more intriguing as he had said that "he will not be available for the current series against Australia or the following West Indies series." (Though the confusion about the premature announcement of his appointment wasn't among the reasons for declining the post, King said it was all confidential).

Perhaps the silliest statement to come out of the West Indies in recent weeks was that made by West Indies paceman Mervyn Dillon when he claimed the West Indies quicks would bomb Steve Waugh with bouncers.

I have news for Merv Dillon. This is hardly new and the world quicks have been saying for years that Steve has a weakness against this type of attack.

It may have been true some years ago, but Steve and I worked on a way to improve this area of his game.

The basic theme was for Steve to forget how he hooked and concentrate on letting the ball go.

At the same time we worked on his ability to open up to the short pitched deliveries pitched into his ribs and turn them away for singles. So that he gets away from the bowler and rotates the strike and thus take the pressure off.

It worked beautifully and I believe this has been the cornerstone of his great success since 1995.

Bowlers crazily are still trying it and while Steve might look uncomfortable sometimes to these deliveries, he doesn't get out.

Amazingly also that the bowlers still try this as the best chance they have of getting him out early and cheaply — keep the ball up and get him leg before or caught behind to balls he plays back to when in fact he should be pushing forward.